New Braunfels, Texas
Dishing on old-fashioned town infused with old German flavor in the middle of the Texas Hill Country.
By Jason Braun East
Venturing forth from the vast cheese forests of my hometown in Wisconsin, I knew my belly and I were in for a treat when we landed in Texas. After all, it’s the land of no-bean chili and unbeatable barbeque; not to mention that the state’s name contributes to half of one of my favorite contractions: Tex-Mex.
While all of those delicious stereotypes hold true, the Texas Hill Country is bursting at the seams with sufficient culinary options to make your head spin. My trip took me to historic New Braunfels, which is conveniently located between San Antonio and Austin on IH-35. The city of New Braunfels was founded in 1845 by a German prince, and the civic pride shows to this day.
The bustling town of 40,000 offers a number of establishments which proudly carry on the tradition of offering filling German fare. My insurmountable sweet tooth led me to Naegelin’s Bakery. It claims to be the oldest bakery in Texas, having been family run since 1868. Armed with surprisingly soft gingerbread cookies and a flaky cherry strudel, I vowed to check back in soon to try their array of savory kolaches.
Sticking with the alpine theme of the day, I decided to have lunch at the nearby Freisenhaus restaurant. The schnitzel I ordered was perfectly done, and I washed it down with a hearty German brew. The ambiance was welcoming, with wait staff in traditional dirndl costumes, plus a case of knick-knacks, treats, and even German-language newspapers for those with an appetite for souvenirs. I also learned that the town hosts an annual WURSTFEST – a ten-day Oktoberfest-style party that kicks off the first Friday of every November. Sadly, the timing of my trip didn’t coincide with this year’s dates, but it sounds like so much fun that I may just have to plan a return trip.
Branching out for dinner, I found myself in a renovated 1915 Post Office right in the heart of downtown. McAdoo’s Seafood Company offers fresh seafood and stick-to-your-ribs Cajun favorites. I chose the shrimp and crawfish étouffée, which was served over steaming jambalaya. Delicious! My dining companion chose the Chilean seabass which was served with lump crab meat and a pineapple glaze. If my plate hadn’t been so amazing, I just might have been green with envy. After dinner, we relaxed with a couple of their signature cocktails, enjoying the cozy bar under intimate Edison-bulb lighting.
The remainder of my stay featured continuous dining adventures, ranging from delicious sushi to the aforementioned Tex-Mex. I was also fortunate enough to have the chili at the Phoenix Saloon, as seen on the Food Network. As a Yankee, I stuck with the medium-level heat, though there is a ghost chili variety for which you have to sign a waiver! I was quite pleased with my safe choice. The chili was thick and hearty, with chunks of tender beef. It turns out that chili powder was first developed right there in that very building back in 1894!
My trip to New Braunfels was over too quickly, but in all respects, it was a flavorful surprise and a welcome break from the ordinary.